I am Associate Professor at the Department of Communication at the University of California, San Diego and affiliate faculty at The Center for Iberian and Latin American Studies (CILAS), The Center for U.S-Mexican Studies, the Studio for Tactical Ethnography, The Chicano/a Latino/a Arts and Humanities Program and the International Institute where I am the co-director of the Nature, Space and Politics Faculty and Graduate Group, a member of the Climate Action Lab and co-founder of the Design Lab’s Just Transitions Initiative.
My research examines the relations between the production of space and late capitalism. I am interested in how ordinary people make sense of the material, symbolic and environmental transformations generated by economic and ecological crises. I have looked at these transformations through two lenses. The first lens corresponds with my published research and it focuses on tourism development and its relations with capitalist logics of accumulation by dispossession, land enclosure and ecological neglect. The second lens corresponds with my ongoing research on mega-infrastructure development in the contexts of redistributive politics, renewable energy reform and ecocides. Currently I am working on historical and ethnographic research to understand the relations between mega-infrastructure projects (mega-projects), emancipatory politics and the imagination of the future in an era of anthropogenic climate change.
My book Stuck with Tourism: Space, Power and Labor in Contemporary Yucatán (UC Press 2020) explores the ambivalent nature of tourism by drawing on ethnographic evidence from the Mexican Yucatán Peninsula, a region voraciously transformed by tourism development over the past forty years. Contrasting labor and lived experiences at the beach resorts of Cancún, protected natural enclaves along the Gulf coast, historical buildings of the colonial past, and maquilas for souvenir production in the Maya heartland, this book explores the moral, political, ecological, and everyday dilemmas that emerge when, as Yucatán’s inhabitants put it, people get stuck in tourism’s grip. The book contributes the concepts of predation-as-extraction and stickiness-as-entrapment to theorize both the centrality of tourism in organizing the predatory geographies of late capitalism as well as its moral, socio-ecological and political outcomes.
The book has been awarded the 2020 Best Book Award of the Society of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology (SLACA) and the 2021 Nelson Graburn Prize in the Anthropology of Tourism Section at the American Anthropological Association. It has been reviewed at the AAG Review of Books, the Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, Journal of Latin American Geography, City & Society and Anthropology News.
With colleagues M. Mostafanezhad and R. Norum I have recently co-edited the book Tourism Geopolitics: Assemblages of Infrastructure, Affect and Imagination (UA Press, 2020) where we develop the concept of tourism geopolitics to reveal the growing centrality of tourism in geopolitical life, as well as the geopolitical nature of the tourism encounter. You can read the book Open Access here.